How to build robust writing processes and why you should

How to build robust writing processes and why you should

How to build robust writing processes and why you should

How to build robust writing processes and why you should

Thom James Carter

Content writer, Process Street

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As a writer, you’re either a gardener or an architect. Let me explain...with the help of George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones book series.

Martin once said in an interview:

“The architects know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they're going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there's going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed, and water it. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don't know how many branches it's going to have—they find out as it grows.”


Considering the lengthy time frame (we’re talking years, here) it takes for Martin to write the installments of Game of Thrones, he’s a gardener. His approach—or content creation process—is more haphazard, left to chance, and a bit of a gamble.

But what if Martin were an architect? If he had a meticulous process for writing an upcoming book, would that mean that it would be written faster? Or perhaps even to a higher standard?

A gardener’s approach to writing leaves room for human error to creep in, which can damage the end product. That’s why, as somebody who’s writing in a business context, you need to build, implement, and sustain robust writing processes for creating stellar content as fast as possible.

Don’t let your audience become as frustrated as Martin’s—build as an architect would!

Why You Need Writing Processes

A lack of a step-by-step plan for how you’ll get from idea to high-quality published content can result in a myriad of issues.

For example, whether you’re working solo or on a team, it:

  • Can negatively impact the quality of your content if steps are forgotten, or there’s no accountability for sticking to set guidelines
  • Will slow down content production since you’ll have to create an entirely new plan for each piece of content
  • Can result in glaring inconsistencies across your company’s content, especially if you have several people producing content their own way

You can save yourself and your team all this trouble by defining everything that goes into writing for your company.

Different Types of Writing Processes

Note that while “writing process” is a singular term, it actually encompasses several activities. After all, it’s not limited to the sole act of writing.

The different steps of the writing process include:

Not to mention that the stages and steps vary by content type. For example, as you can imagine, the technical writing process differs from that of the steps for creative writing since one is more fact-based than the other.

In any case, before you start on the activities above, the first order of business is making decisions regarding documentation.

Decide how you’ll document your content writing processes

Before you jump into the content creation workflow, decide how you want to document it. After all, having a process that only lives inside your head isn’t doing you any favors. Nor is it helpful for the rest of your team (including any new hires you’re onboarding since they need documented processes to quickly get to grips with their role).

There are various options when it comes to process documentation.

What’s often used is the humble pen-and-paper method. But paper, unfortunately, is prone to going on adventures (read: getting lost) and having accidents (read: getting thrown in the bin). So, a step up from that would be something like Google Docs, although Google Docs lacks built-in templates and workflows.

If you’re truly dedicated to documenting and using your processes, consider a Content Operations Platform like GatherContent, which enables streamlined creation, review, approval, and governance of content.

Example of GatherContent content workflow
An example workflow in the GatherContent platform

Once you’ve decided how you’ll document your way of doing things, start building out your planning process.

1. Build out your planning process

As mentioned previously, the process of writing kicks off with planning. In terms of flow, the planning process looks like this:

  • Think of content ideas and whittle the choices down to one
  • Do competitor research and consider how your content will be unique
  • Do keyword research
  • Give the content a working title
  • Determine your target word count
  • Let your team know what you’re about to work on
  • Bring in a designer to create imagery

To illustrate, for a blog post use case, the planning process begins with ideation.

As Rachel Leist at HubSpot explains:

"A good blog post is interesting and educational. Blogs should answer questions and help readers resolve a challenge they're experiencing—and you have to do so in an interesting way."
Rachel Leist
Senior Manager, Growth Marketing at HubSpot

So, the first step is considering what subject is interesting, well-suited for your company’s blog, and valuable for your readership.

Once you’ve married yourself to a single idea, the next step is competitor research. In other words, seeing who’s ranking on Google’s front pages for that topic, what their content includes (and what it doesn’t), and what would make your post more engaging, interesting, and unique than your dastardly rivals’ posts.

Speaking of ranking, if you’re going for organic growth, you’ll also move onto keyword research to find promising keywords, including any viable longtails. It may not be terribly enjoyable digging through Ahrefs or Moz and analyzing numbers, but it’s an integral aspect of business content writing. Even the most remarkable, well-written post will get drowned out and yield no results if the SEO odds are stacked against it.

These are most of the best practices where planning is concerned. But others include understanding your intended audience, deciding on target word count, establishing a goal or KPIs to measure the post’s effectiveness, and over-communicating to your team what you’re about to start working on.

Your planning process may differ slightly, of course. But what’s key is documenting it in the first place with the workflow management software of your choice. Then, whenever you or a colleague need to begin writing a blog post, all you have to do is refer to and use the process document!

2. Check off prewriting tasks

With a roadmap for how you’ll go about creating your content, you can begin laying out the bare bones. This involves several of the steps you outlined in the planning stage, including:

  • Brainstorming the topic you’ll be creating around and the fresh angle from which you’ll approach the content
  • Conducting research to understand who your audience consists of, the competition you’re up against, and how to optimize the particular piece of writing for search engines
  • Deciding on a title, along with creating and structuring your headings to form an outline
  • Gathering statistics and information that will inform the content and placing them within the appropriate sections of your outline

During this stage, you can also source insights and quotes from internal subject matter experts, individuals in your professional network, or platforms like Help a Reporter Out (HARO).

With the structure and main ideas of your piece laid out, you can ward off writer’s block and complete your draft faster.  

3. Move on to the actual writing

The writing process is undoubtedly the most subjective and variable process of all. Yet, there’s still a defined process you can follow to make your writing process a success. (Meta, I know.)

For example, the writing stage of your process may look similar to mine, which I use on a daily basis:

  • Create a new document to write the post in
  • Double-check the post outline
  • Add the drafted title
  • Write down the H2s and H3s
  • Go back to the top of the doc and write the intro
  • Write the content for the first H2 (and any H3s)
  • Then rinse and repeat for all the rest of the H2s and H3s
  • Make sure the word count has been met
  • Add the most appropriate backlinks to the corresponding anchor text
  • Use Unsplash, Pixabay, and the like to find relevant images
  • Get a colleague to peer review the work and supply first draft feedback, if possible

Documenting the steps that’ll simultaneously guide you through and quicken the writing process is, without question, a fantastic feat. It sets you and the rest of your team up to push out regular, consistently high-standard posts.

Speaking of creating content quicker, yes, time is money, and we all want content published as soon as possible. However, there’s no point in documenting a process if you’re going to rush through content creation or ignore the rules you’ve set.

💡 Remember: You’re establishing, documenting, and planning to follow a process in the first place because you want to do the best job possible.

It’s not an annoying piece of bureaucracy; it’s an essential component of your success as is this next step of the process.

Once a draft has been written, transform it into a final draft via your revising and editing process.

4. Complete the editing process

It doesn’t matter if you’re revising a post before passing it along to your team’s editor or if you’re a one-person content team where you’re acting as the content writer, editor, and marketing director.

A documented editing process is, in a word, crucial.

Do you have a fully-documented, step-by-step process for editing that’s used every time? Do you incorporate best practices as you edit, holding yourself accountable for creating content of the highest quality possible? If not, you’re at risk of losing the interest and, even worse, the trust of your readers.

But what should the editing stage entail?

  • Double-checking syntax, word choice, voice and tone of voice, sentence structure, and use of punctuation
  • Ensuring the post is clear, has good readability, and is scannable
  • Reading through the entire post aloud to make sure your writing sounds natural and, as needed, rewriting clunky sentences or paragraphs
  • Checking that there are enough headings (and that they’re descriptive)
  • Rectifying any formatting errors
  • Making sure your keywords have been mentioned enough
  • Ensuring that mentioned statistics and studies are linked to (to avoid plagiarism issues), not outdated, and from reliable sources
  • Clicking all links to make sure they work and direct readers to the right pages
  • Fixing immediately noticeable spelling errors and mistakes and, once all other edits are made, running the content through a spell-check or proofreading tool such as Grammarly

And, as mentioned in step 11 of my workflow above, in addition to reviewing your own writing, you can enlist someone else's help to proofread and edit. An extra pair of eyes can go a long way in ensuring that your message is relevant, clear, and compelling.

Again, this process will vary depending on the size of your team, who’s been assigned to do what, and what type of content is being created. But, as long as it contains fundamental steps like these for quality assurance, your final drafts will be, well, quality. Here’s to no longer editing content without a documented process and relying purely on memory!

Over time, you’ll be able to improve this and the previous two processes to better fit your and your team’s custom content workflow. This is known as process optimization, which is both agile and necessary to maintain the effectiveness of your processes.

5. Optimize the different stages of the writing process

Process optimization—the act of streamlining processes—is largely done by removing wasteful or unnecessary steps, fixing bottlenecks, and adding quality of life tweaks.

Interestingly enough, this last step can only be done when you and, if applicable, your team have used the process frequently. It’s through usage that any pain points of the process are discovered, and where ideas for improvement are thought of. In other words, you have to know the process before you can make it better.

And don’t worry if you have time constraints. Optimization won’t steal huge chunks of time away from you! Not only is it simple to do but, for the best results, it’s done only every three months (or quarter). You can simply dip in, discard what’s wasteful and/or not necessary, add improvements, and then use a far better, much more streamlined process for content creation.

Just remember that, for a process to be truly optimized, it has to work for everybody who uses it. So, if you work as part of a team, getting teammates’ input on how a process can be optimized is crucial. They’ll provide feedback that you might not have initially considered—pointing out a particular bottleneck, for instance.

Curious about the steps for successful process optimization? One way to do it is by following the DMAIC structure, which is a tried-and-tested framework for executing process improvements:

  • Define: What process should be optimized?
  • Measure: How does it currently perform?
  • Analyze: How can it be optimized?
  • Improve: In what ways can it be improved?
  • Control: How can the implemented changes be measured, and when will the process be reviewed again?
DMAIC Process Optimization Framework
The 5 elements of the DMAIC process optimization framework

Another framework is PDSAplan, do, study, act—which is similar to DMAIC.

Ultimately, the process optimization route you go down is up to you. But no matter what, don’t leave out this important step. Why? In the modern world of business, teams (and their processes) must constantly adapt and remain agile.

For example, perhaps you’re scaling your content team, meaning more capacity to do peer reviews and edits of other people’s work. Or, let’s say the marketing manager wants to place a bigger emphasis on CRO for all onsite blog posts. In any case, the processes of writing must change accordingly.

The takeaway from this section is rather simple: Optimize processes regularly!

Thrive with the architect’s approach to writing content

Although slated to arrive in 2021, the next installment of the Game of Thrones series—The Winds of Winter—is still forthcoming as of the start of 2022. To date, it’s taken 10+ years for George R.R. Martin to write this sixth book of the epic fantasy series.

While a blog post certainly doesn’t have the same word count as a book, the equivalent would be taking a month to write a 1,500-word post. But by documenting your content creation processes as described above and regularly optimizing them, you and your content won’t succumb to the precarious fate of the gardener.

With an architectural approach, you and your team will write impactful posts efficiently—every single time.

Still want more context on what goes into process development? Check out GatherContent’s guide to content production planning, which covers everything from collaboration and workflow stages to engaging subject matter experts and implementing your process. It’s free to download, so grab it now!

As a writer, you’re either a gardener or an architect. Let me explain...with the help of George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones book series.

Martin once said in an interview:

“The architects know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they're going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there's going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed, and water it. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don't know how many branches it's going to have—they find out as it grows.”


Considering the lengthy time frame (we’re talking years, here) it takes for Martin to write the installments of Game of Thrones, he’s a gardener. His approach—or content creation process—is more haphazard, left to chance, and a bit of a gamble.

But what if Martin were an architect? If he had a meticulous process for writing an upcoming book, would that mean that it would be written faster? Or perhaps even to a higher standard?

A gardener’s approach to writing leaves room for human error to creep in, which can damage the end product. That’s why, as somebody who’s writing in a business context, you need to build, implement, and sustain robust writing processes for creating stellar content as fast as possible.

Don’t let your audience become as frustrated as Martin’s—build as an architect would!

Why You Need Writing Processes

A lack of a step-by-step plan for how you’ll get from idea to high-quality published content can result in a myriad of issues.

For example, whether you’re working solo or on a team, it:

  • Can negatively impact the quality of your content if steps are forgotten, or there’s no accountability for sticking to set guidelines
  • Will slow down content production since you’ll have to create an entirely new plan for each piece of content
  • Can result in glaring inconsistencies across your company’s content, especially if you have several people producing content their own way

You can save yourself and your team all this trouble by defining everything that goes into writing for your company.

Different Types of Writing Processes

Note that while “writing process” is a singular term, it actually encompasses several activities. After all, it’s not limited to the sole act of writing.

The different steps of the writing process include:

Not to mention that the stages and steps vary by content type. For example, as you can imagine, the technical writing process differs from that of the steps for creative writing since one is more fact-based than the other.

In any case, before you start on the activities above, the first order of business is making decisions regarding documentation.

Decide how you’ll document your content writing processes

Before you jump into the content creation workflow, decide how you want to document it. After all, having a process that only lives inside your head isn’t doing you any favors. Nor is it helpful for the rest of your team (including any new hires you’re onboarding since they need documented processes to quickly get to grips with their role).

There are various options when it comes to process documentation.

What’s often used is the humble pen-and-paper method. But paper, unfortunately, is prone to going on adventures (read: getting lost) and having accidents (read: getting thrown in the bin). So, a step up from that would be something like Google Docs, although Google Docs lacks built-in templates and workflows.

If you’re truly dedicated to documenting and using your processes, consider a Content Operations Platform like GatherContent, which enables streamlined creation, review, approval, and governance of content.

Example of GatherContent content workflow
An example workflow in the GatherContent platform

Once you’ve decided how you’ll document your way of doing things, start building out your planning process.

1. Build out your planning process

As mentioned previously, the process of writing kicks off with planning. In terms of flow, the planning process looks like this:

  • Think of content ideas and whittle the choices down to one
  • Do competitor research and consider how your content will be unique
  • Do keyword research
  • Give the content a working title
  • Determine your target word count
  • Let your team know what you’re about to work on
  • Bring in a designer to create imagery

To illustrate, for a blog post use case, the planning process begins with ideation.

As Rachel Leist at HubSpot explains:

"A good blog post is interesting and educational. Blogs should answer questions and help readers resolve a challenge they're experiencing—and you have to do so in an interesting way."
Rachel Leist
Senior Manager, Growth Marketing at HubSpot

So, the first step is considering what subject is interesting, well-suited for your company’s blog, and valuable for your readership.

Once you’ve married yourself to a single idea, the next step is competitor research. In other words, seeing who’s ranking on Google’s front pages for that topic, what their content includes (and what it doesn’t), and what would make your post more engaging, interesting, and unique than your dastardly rivals’ posts.

Speaking of ranking, if you’re going for organic growth, you’ll also move onto keyword research to find promising keywords, including any viable longtails. It may not be terribly enjoyable digging through Ahrefs or Moz and analyzing numbers, but it’s an integral aspect of business content writing. Even the most remarkable, well-written post will get drowned out and yield no results if the SEO odds are stacked against it.

These are most of the best practices where planning is concerned. But others include understanding your intended audience, deciding on target word count, establishing a goal or KPIs to measure the post’s effectiveness, and over-communicating to your team what you’re about to start working on.

Your planning process may differ slightly, of course. But what’s key is documenting it in the first place with the workflow management software of your choice. Then, whenever you or a colleague need to begin writing a blog post, all you have to do is refer to and use the process document!

2. Check off prewriting tasks

With a roadmap for how you’ll go about creating your content, you can begin laying out the bare bones. This involves several of the steps you outlined in the planning stage, including:

  • Brainstorming the topic you’ll be creating around and the fresh angle from which you’ll approach the content
  • Conducting research to understand who your audience consists of, the competition you’re up against, and how to optimize the particular piece of writing for search engines
  • Deciding on a title, along with creating and structuring your headings to form an outline
  • Gathering statistics and information that will inform the content and placing them within the appropriate sections of your outline

During this stage, you can also source insights and quotes from internal subject matter experts, individuals in your professional network, or platforms like Help a Reporter Out (HARO).

With the structure and main ideas of your piece laid out, you can ward off writer’s block and complete your draft faster.  

3. Move on to the actual writing

The writing process is undoubtedly the most subjective and variable process of all. Yet, there’s still a defined process you can follow to make your writing process a success. (Meta, I know.)

For example, the writing stage of your process may look similar to mine, which I use on a daily basis:

  • Create a new document to write the post in
  • Double-check the post outline
  • Add the drafted title
  • Write down the H2s and H3s
  • Go back to the top of the doc and write the intro
  • Write the content for the first H2 (and any H3s)
  • Then rinse and repeat for all the rest of the H2s and H3s
  • Make sure the word count has been met
  • Add the most appropriate backlinks to the corresponding anchor text
  • Use Unsplash, Pixabay, and the like to find relevant images
  • Get a colleague to peer review the work and supply first draft feedback, if possible

Documenting the steps that’ll simultaneously guide you through and quicken the writing process is, without question, a fantastic feat. It sets you and the rest of your team up to push out regular, consistently high-standard posts.

Speaking of creating content quicker, yes, time is money, and we all want content published as soon as possible. However, there’s no point in documenting a process if you’re going to rush through content creation or ignore the rules you’ve set.

💡 Remember: You’re establishing, documenting, and planning to follow a process in the first place because you want to do the best job possible.

It’s not an annoying piece of bureaucracy; it’s an essential component of your success as is this next step of the process.

Once a draft has been written, transform it into a final draft via your revising and editing process.

4. Complete the editing process

It doesn’t matter if you’re revising a post before passing it along to your team’s editor or if you’re a one-person content team where you’re acting as the content writer, editor, and marketing director.

A documented editing process is, in a word, crucial.

Do you have a fully-documented, step-by-step process for editing that’s used every time? Do you incorporate best practices as you edit, holding yourself accountable for creating content of the highest quality possible? If not, you’re at risk of losing the interest and, even worse, the trust of your readers.

But what should the editing stage entail?

  • Double-checking syntax, word choice, voice and tone of voice, sentence structure, and use of punctuation
  • Ensuring the post is clear, has good readability, and is scannable
  • Reading through the entire post aloud to make sure your writing sounds natural and, as needed, rewriting clunky sentences or paragraphs
  • Checking that there are enough headings (and that they’re descriptive)
  • Rectifying any formatting errors
  • Making sure your keywords have been mentioned enough
  • Ensuring that mentioned statistics and studies are linked to (to avoid plagiarism issues), not outdated, and from reliable sources
  • Clicking all links to make sure they work and direct readers to the right pages
  • Fixing immediately noticeable spelling errors and mistakes and, once all other edits are made, running the content through a spell-check or proofreading tool such as Grammarly

And, as mentioned in step 11 of my workflow above, in addition to reviewing your own writing, you can enlist someone else's help to proofread and edit. An extra pair of eyes can go a long way in ensuring that your message is relevant, clear, and compelling.

Again, this process will vary depending on the size of your team, who’s been assigned to do what, and what type of content is being created. But, as long as it contains fundamental steps like these for quality assurance, your final drafts will be, well, quality. Here’s to no longer editing content without a documented process and relying purely on memory!

Over time, you’ll be able to improve this and the previous two processes to better fit your and your team’s custom content workflow. This is known as process optimization, which is both agile and necessary to maintain the effectiveness of your processes.

5. Optimize the different stages of the writing process

Process optimization—the act of streamlining processes—is largely done by removing wasteful or unnecessary steps, fixing bottlenecks, and adding quality of life tweaks.

Interestingly enough, this last step can only be done when you and, if applicable, your team have used the process frequently. It’s through usage that any pain points of the process are discovered, and where ideas for improvement are thought of. In other words, you have to know the process before you can make it better.

And don’t worry if you have time constraints. Optimization won’t steal huge chunks of time away from you! Not only is it simple to do but, for the best results, it’s done only every three months (or quarter). You can simply dip in, discard what’s wasteful and/or not necessary, add improvements, and then use a far better, much more streamlined process for content creation.

Just remember that, for a process to be truly optimized, it has to work for everybody who uses it. So, if you work as part of a team, getting teammates’ input on how a process can be optimized is crucial. They’ll provide feedback that you might not have initially considered—pointing out a particular bottleneck, for instance.

Curious about the steps for successful process optimization? One way to do it is by following the DMAIC structure, which is a tried-and-tested framework for executing process improvements:

  • Define: What process should be optimized?
  • Measure: How does it currently perform?
  • Analyze: How can it be optimized?
  • Improve: In what ways can it be improved?
  • Control: How can the implemented changes be measured, and when will the process be reviewed again?
DMAIC Process Optimization Framework
The 5 elements of the DMAIC process optimization framework

Another framework is PDSAplan, do, study, act—which is similar to DMAIC.

Ultimately, the process optimization route you go down is up to you. But no matter what, don’t leave out this important step. Why? In the modern world of business, teams (and their processes) must constantly adapt and remain agile.

For example, perhaps you’re scaling your content team, meaning more capacity to do peer reviews and edits of other people’s work. Or, let’s say the marketing manager wants to place a bigger emphasis on CRO for all onsite blog posts. In any case, the processes of writing must change accordingly.

The takeaway from this section is rather simple: Optimize processes regularly!

Thrive with the architect’s approach to writing content

Although slated to arrive in 2021, the next installment of the Game of Thrones series—The Winds of Winter—is still forthcoming as of the start of 2022. To date, it’s taken 10+ years for George R.R. Martin to write this sixth book of the epic fantasy series.

While a blog post certainly doesn’t have the same word count as a book, the equivalent would be taking a month to write a 1,500-word post. But by documenting your content creation processes as described above and regularly optimizing them, you and your content won’t succumb to the precarious fate of the gardener.

With an architectural approach, you and your team will write impactful posts efficiently—every single time.

Still want more context on what goes into process development? Check out GatherContent’s guide to content production planning, which covers everything from collaboration and workflow stages to engaging subject matter experts and implementing your process. It’s free to download, so grab it now!

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About the author

Thom James Carter

Thom James Carter is a content writer at Process Street, where he writes about processes, systems, SaaS, and all things tech. You can follow him on Twitter.

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